There’s nothing like a snowy New England season to get me in the mood to go shopping for seeds at my local Garden Center. Most of the vegetable seeds I purchase are the time-tested and reliable varieties that I have grown for many years; however I am often tempted to try the newer offerings that promise higher yields, better flavor or disease resistance. It’s a difficult choice comparing each type of vegetable I grow against a newer variety but it’s a process that I thoroughly enjoy. Before heading out to make my purchases, I do a germination test on last year’s leftover seeds to check their viability. There’s no reason to throw out perfectly good seeds even if the date on the package is a year old.
I place a dozen or so seeds between two sheets of moistened paper towels and place it in a into a baggie. The baggie then goes on top of my pie safe near the woodstove where the warmth will speed up the germination process. I check up on them every other day and when no more seeds germinate, I tally up the sprouted seeds. If the germination is less than 75 percent, it’s time for me to buy more of that seed.
Holiday potted plants are not usually that long-lived. Insufficient sunlight, cold drafts, low humidity and overwatering / under watering are all conditions that lead to an early demise. There are certain steps, however, that you can take in order to enjoy their beauty a bit longer. Either remove the decorative foil or pot cover from the pots or punch holes through the covering to allow water to drain properly. Keep the soil evenly moist and protect your plants from cold drafts. Situate the plants in a room that gets as much sunlight as possible…usually a south or west facing room. Also, most plants appreciate a humidity tray.
Fill a large saucer with pebbles and place the potted plant on top. Any water that drains into the saucer after watering will create a moist environment for the plant as it evaporates. This also prevents root rot because the plants roots are not sitting in water. Remove faded flowers and their stems as soon as possible to encourage the plant to keep blooming and look tidy.
Check your stored bulbs (cannas, dahlias, gladioli, tuberous begonias) to see if they’ve begun to shrivel and are too dry. In late Fall, I either store my bulbs in barely moist peat moss or crumpled newspaper. Now, slightly rewetting either will help to stop the loss of water from the tuber.
Try to avoid salt-based de-icing products in or around garden as it is toxic to most plants. Using stone dust, sawdust, sand or cat litter instead will not only prevent damage to your plants but also your pets paws.
Don’t waste your beautiful tree by taking it to the transfer station! Evergreen boughs from garland, swags and wreaths or your Christmas tree can be used as winter protection on garden beds. After the holidays, I put my tree outside and secure it to a wooden stake near the birdfeeders. This offers the feeding birds protection from wind, weather and predators. You can also decorate it with popcorn garland or bird seed & suet ornaments for winter birds. Remember to continue to supply fresh water for the birds.